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Why Great SEO Can’t Promise Great Results

SEO is a dicey and unpredictable world full of uncertainty. Even if you follow all the rules, you still aren’t assured of moving a single notch in the rankings space. At least not on the time table you’d prefer – which for most of us, is instant.

Think of SEO as a full-scale long distance race. Don’t aim to be the road runner; be the turtle instead. SEO turtles are slow, methodical, sturdy, and persistent. They understand the race will bring challenges and hurdles. But they never, ever give up.

Don’t Believe the Hype – There are No Guarantees

As you embark on your SEO adventure, it’s imperative that you be very mindful about those you trust to lead your charge. Many business owners reach out to SEO professionals to help them implement short and long term strategies, and for good reason – trying to decipher this ever-changing landscape is a full-time job.

If you come across a contractor or firm that guarantees results, be very, very wary. SEO is not an exact science, and if someone is promising you top rankings, or any level of movement, they have no tangible proof to back up their claims.

Why can’t we promise our efforts result in higher traffic and revenues? Let’s examine the most relevant factors.

#1 – Competition

The single most volatile aspect of SEO is the intense competitive landscape. Depending on your industry, you have dozens to hundreds and maybe even thousands of competitors, and you’re all vying for the same or similar keywords. Even if you’re rocking your SEO, your competition may be even better. SEO professionals can’t possibly guarantee that your competition won’t leap frog ahead of you.

Don’t be disheartened by your competition, however – be inspired. The presence of our competitors helps guarantee we are on our “A” game, and prevents us from getting lazy. This in turn helps us reach our highest potential as business owners. Keep that tough turtle shell going, and even rockstar competitors will be a blessing.

#2 – Know Your Link Partners

Another major ding in the world of SEO lies in link building. Your SEO team or firm may advocate mass submissions to link directories worldwide, but you need to do your homework before you allow someone to link to your site. Whatever reputation your potential partners have becomes your reputation when you link in either direction.

Many business owners with the best of intentions merrily submit their site for inclusion in directories that are essentially glorified spam listings. It’s not a matter of if Google discovers such things – it’s when. Don’t let all your hard work via on-site SEO fall like a house of cards because of ill-fated link partners.

How do you know who’s legit? Follow the advice of Google search specialist Matt Cutts:

“Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.

What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesn’t speak well to the quality of the directory.

If there is a fee, what’s the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url.”

#3 – Keywords: Don’t Stuff ’em

Everyone knows how important keywords are. The ones you choose become a core part of your marketing efforts, across the board. As such, marketers are often guilty of plastering these keywords with a ridiculously high density. Not only does this bring zero rewards, it’s now a full-on Google sin.

Why is this so sinful? Because it’s a wretched user experience – your site copy should never ever be written for a bot. People first, please.

Let’s pretend you run a website that sells herbal teas. If your homepage read something like this:

“Welcome to Tina’s Tea House, the place to buy herbal teas! Herbal teas are a natural healthy choice and this is the best place to buy herbal teas! There’s no better way to feed your body and mind than with herbal teas, and we have the best herbal teas on earth.”

You get it – this is abysmal from a user perspective, and Google isn’t having it. Nor should you.

#4 – A Website That Epically Fails the Conversion Test

I’ve saved the best for last – conversions. Most SEO professionals spend less time helping you build great linking partners and Google rankings, and instead help you build a better website. While this should be common sense, the truth is folks get so focused on being the best in Google’s eyes that they forget it’s the website that matters.

Yes, great websites help SEO. More importantly, great websites mean high conversions, a fantastic user experience, and impressive profits. If you embark on a masterful SEO plan, successfully driving new users in droves to your site, you’ll waste your efforts completely if your website can’t convert.

Make your website the best it can be before you go full-scale into off-site SEO. Then, alert the masses. Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of time and effort with little to show.

Almost all of us are hot-to-trot on the best SEO techniques these days – that’s precisely why you read articles like these. While it’s important to know the latest trends and tactics, it’s just as crucial to manage your expectations, and to never fall for false or unattainable claims.

Just remember that Google, too, is a turtle – they are slow to notice all your hard work, and that means you need to stay consistent. Let your competitors be the ones who give up just before the tipping point. Keep your eye on the prize, follow the rules, and with a little luck, you will indeed with the SEO race.

Do you approach SEO from a long-term or short-term perspective? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

About the author

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Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile

31 Comments

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  • I did a lot of study to have a great seo practice. This article gave me some guidance and showed that I had to be more careful and have more homework to do. And not be satisfied in what I offer now. SEO is an ongoing process & working hard is a must. Thanks.

  • The goal of both is to get you the best possible ranking for your desired keywords. A spot in the top three is the holy grail of Internet marketing. Using SEO services increases your chances of finding that “holy grail.” Here’s how to find a good provider.

  • That was really healthy and helpful. Being turtle is the best SEO strategy for any business websites no matter what amount of competition or business niche you have.

    I strongly believe that we should spend most of SEO efforts on site itself or inbound marketing and eventually you will start getting great results in returns.

  • Just curious… is the tail not wagging the dog? We have passionately built up a very good reputation internationally simply by delivering an outstanding service which gives a free follow up consultations for the purpose of quality control as well as delivery. Out competitors cannot match our service. By the end of the 90’s we were beginning to gain the reputation as the best in our field globally. Enter Google. Our competition has huge budgets for SEO, and we are a small, personal concern. They have swamped us and almost closed us down – in spite of the fact that we are still giving the best service – but then of course, the Big Boys have the money to manipulate “reputation” pages, don’t they? We did not go into business to do SEO full time. We went into business as a service to the family and to make a living. Any suggestions – this is tragic.

    • We are facing the same tragic circumstances you are of fast “death by Google” and didn’t get into our business to become social media experts, content writers or SEO professionals. I do what I do to sell my products to my customers. I do not want to have to become a writer to sell my products and I can’t afford the money the big boys spend to rank. I just have great, original products in an industry swamped with copycats, but Google has launched my 1st page rankings since 1997 to Pluto and I will have to close my doors after 23 years unless I can find a solution.

      I read every article you publish and would love to know if you are a contact that could help with this or can you recommend someone to help us little guys as prices that won’t bankrupt us?

    • To Anthony and Jan –
      Get to my website and give me a call directly. Let me worry about Google while you concentrate on your business.

    • I fully, completely understand your frustrations and concerns. Here’s the reality of the world we’re living in now –
      If you build a brick and mortar store, you know marketing has to be at the heart of your budgeting and efforts. The same is true for the web, and SEO is a huge part of the marketing game online. It’s just part of running a business online now – you don’t have to be an expert, but you have to have someone on your team that is. Otherwise, you will get lost in the cold, and you deserve the best, clearly.
      Adjusting to changing landscapes isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for any business that wants to survive.

      I truly wish you nothing but success!

  • Indeed, studying the SEO world this would seem to have no end.

    But for those who mempunyia online business in the virtual world, must have the ability to process this kind of SEO quality content, the menu on the website that allows readers will be the key to success is good.

    Thank you for sharing this knowledge very helpful

  • Hi Tina , superb post, congratulations. I asked myself if would be posible (with your autorization of course) to translate this post to spanish, and publishing it in our blog net. Of course i would link the translated post to your page, (original version). This way you can reach the spanish market and people with your post.
    We can also give to you permision to translate some of our original content to english and publish it in your post. If you are agree please contact me. Thanks in advance!!

    • Hi Raul. I’d be interested to know if Tina gets back to you as I’ve found that despite the extremely high quality of her articles, she rarely interacts. I share nearly every article, especially on Twitter (credit via @PoetKitty), and have not had one acknowledgement – every other SiteProNews contributor tweets a quick thank you. Not annoyed just interested that she does not seem to reflect the generally accepted “rule” of sharing/interacting etc in today’s network-connected world.

    • Raul – thank you so much for the kind request! If you email editor@sitepronews.com, they can authorize this fully, as they own the content. But I would be honored and have no issue whatsoever!

      Kevin – you are so kind to Tweet my articles! The issue is @poetkitty is my old Twitter, which I sadly got locked out of because it’s connected to an old email address. I’m @oshgumishy now – and I’m terribly sorry I’ve been ignoring you! Not intentional at all, and I’m truly sorry for the confusion.

      Lovely day wishes to you both!

      Tina

  • Yup, that’s what I thought all this while. I guess the best SEO will always come back to writing unique and quality content. That is perhaps the only SEO that seems to work for me.

  • Marketing overall is susceptible to a whole lot of situations, and same is true of SEO…you keep trying until you get it…although SEO is much easier to track than Marketing.

    • Absolutely right, Syed. It’s a process that involves some re-writing and you keep rewriting until you pop up there on the first page.

  • My SEO techniques focus on 3 things. Content, content, and content. It is crucial to getting any kind of rankings. I have potential clients that want me to put them on the top, but when I look at their websites, it’s obvious that we need to do a lot of talking before we even to that point.

    • I do agree with you.
      Often, I see website of a very good (off-line) business that consist of few pages with little content. The most important part of that content is flashing pictures (slide show)that takes half of the regular computer screen, with few written sentences at the bottom.
      …and then, they hire SEO firm to make this website on the top of search rankings.
      Amazing! and Ridiculous!

  • I don’t think that nowadays anyone can give good results in SEO in a specific time because Google Panda and Penguin updates ruined the SEO field. Now the Google Penguin 2.1 update vanished the websites even from search so in this scenario how can anyone get good results in a specific time period.

  • Great post, very to the point.
    I’d like to add one item: Health of Your Website

    I have noticed in the webmaster tools that Google pays a lot of attention to that. One of my customers keeps showing “Page Not Found” errors and every time those error messages spike, SEO ranking related to those keywords is falling.
    Any comments on that?

    • The search spiders are looking for a page that no longer exists. Not finding them gives the error message. Have you tried rebuilding the sitemap and resubmitting it to Google? Doesn’t always help but is a suggestion.

    • We redesigned the website beginning of this year and of the pages in the old site map that did not exist any longer, we created 301 redirects to the new relevant pages. However, my customer had some fools working for him before my company came on board. Those guys had set up a store front that never made it to the live website and in that process created 100s of pages that Google indexed but that never showed up in any site map.
      We resubmitted the new sitemap and it was indexed but Google keeps finding those old store front pages on the web that do not exist anymore.

  • In 2013… TINA !! I’m still surprised of reading this “Make your website the best it can be before you go full-scale into off-site SEO.” as if SEO was an afterthought ! Any site with a balanced budget WILL plan for its SEO to begin with… Websites, especially commercial ones, should be built 100% with Search Engines In mind. They’re the 24/7 FREE SALES TEAM everybody wants. Unless someone has unlimited budget to do PARTIAL or REBUILT SEO after “finishing” their website… always plan SEO basics into your new site AND EXECUTE THEM. Unless you want to build a roof before the basement and hang that roof in the sky with cloud hooks !

    • Hi Pete!

      I think you missed an important part of that sentence – it emphasized “off-site” SEO: what the sentiment of that statement was about is doing all your on-site SEO, and doing it VERY well, before you go crazing buying adwords and link building. I’m passionate about the same thing you are – great content and great websites planned with SEO in mind at inception, whenever possible. I never ever advocate waiting AT ALL to start great on-site SEO 🙂

  • Everything you have mentioned in this article targets my marketing strategy for the company I consult for. However the owners do not see it that way – for them rankings are more important than conversions. So many times I have explained that once a customer comes to the website you need him to do an action that may be click a link to another page or fill out a form for a estimate or just show them that we are qualified in the industry and pick up the phone and call.

    The problem is that some owners think they know SEO or understand how it all works. They know enough to be knowledgeable but the little they know hurts them in the long run.

  • I agree that making sure a website’s content is the most important part of any SEO strategy and that the best way to achieve this is by making it friendly to humans, especially as Google’s algorithms are constantly changing. Thanks for sharing some really great advice.

  • SEO is a process that can take up to 4 – 12 months. People need to understand this. Good solid optimization will not happen over night. Count on at least 3-4 months.

    Sometimes a clean up operation has to be performed before you can achieve first page status and that could take weeks. I find this happens most often with business owners who jump from one SEO company to another and those owners who tried to do it themselves. By the time they get to the company who can help them realize their goals, there’s a hot mess to clean up first. I’ve had to do it many times for small business owners and their businesses are now thriving.

    “Another major ding in the world of SEO lies in link building”

    Yes and it can be a two edged sword which is why I don’t recommend it. Internal linking is the way to go. I always say a website should stand on its own merits and not who is linking to them. I never link build. Would rather let it happen naturally.

    “Most SEO professionals spend less time helping you build great linking partners and Google rankings”

    Count me as one who does absolutely no link building whatsoever. It is too arduous and time consuming. Yet all my clients sit on page one of the organic search results as well as Google maps for their keywords and phrases – from HVAC Contractors to tow truck drivers to electricians and lawyers, they are sitting pretty! Some were really hard to do too, but I found the problems and cleaned them up. Can’t tell you how many “thinking caps” I burned up getting them there.

    “Keywords: Don’t Stuff ‘em”

    I’m a die hard keyword meta data user. I don’t care what anybody says. Five keywords (first 3 are the most important) are all you need there.

    Sprinkle keywords lightly through your content and use alternate yet similar keywords with them! Rewrite your description until you hit the right one and BOOM there you are on page one. Give at least 3-5 days after a rewrite for it to get indexed then see where it lands. Well, I don’t want to give away all my secrets so…

    Great article!

    • Barb! Thank you so much for the incredibly insightful and awesome comments! I’m honored to have your expertise in the mix 🙂

      Tina

  • Semantic markups are an almost guaranteed win for most small businesses targeting geo keywords. This doesn’t get mentioned enough.

  • I tell potential clients all the time that I don’t own Google and hence have no final say on how they choose to rank your website. I just have examples of where what I’ve done has worked. I advise to never trust someone who guarantees results. They may make you rank for ‘luxington free dental implant screening test purple dinosaur’ but how exactly does that benefit you? Targeted traffic and conversions, think more about that. Good post.

  • SEO is neither long nor short term. Rather it’s a continually evolving aspect of the site just like the application code and visual design. It requires constant attention and frequent adjustment. But, done properly, it’s worth the effort.

  • Yes SEO is not a short term process, it’s a continually ongoing process. We have to do it on a regular basis, if we want to maintain the ranking of our websites.